Guild Shopping

Recently I’ve become disenchanted with basically all of the guilds I’m in in all of my games. I’m not sure if it’s the cause or the effect of the burnt out feeling I talked about last time, but either way it’s there. Surprisingly, there’s no drama happening in any of them, and they’re all for slightly different reasons (even the different divisions of the multi-game guild I’m a part of). For some games, I just don’t feel like I fit in anymore, for some I feel like the guild grew so much that I’ve gotten lost in the crowd, and one in particular had just decided it was time for us all to go our separate ways. This has me a little frustrated, since I hate trying to find a good guild, and the idea of doing it in a bunch of games makes me not want to play those games. As I see it, other than spamming zone chat, I have three options, none of which seem terribly appealing.

Forum Trawling
The most obvious first stop is the forums. Here, there are tons of guilds vying for my attention, with descriptions and sales pitches and raid times as far as the eye can see. But how do I pick? Everyone seems to market themselves as “a friendly, community oriented medium-casual guild,” many with raid/dungeon nights in my time zone. I guess I pick one with a name that I like and see if I feel like I fit in?

Find a Multi-Game Guild
Currently, I’m in a guild that has divisions in Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, and, until recently, WildStar. This is great because it means that I don’t have to go guild shopping in every game I go to; it’s just there waiting for me. If I don’t think I’m going to play a game for a while, I don’t feel like I have to notify anyone or leave the guild, because I’m still technically active within the guild, I’m just spending more time in a different division right now. And yet, I haven’t really done anything with them in ages. They’re a great bunch of people, but recently they’ve gotten so big that I feel like I get lost in the crowd, especially when jumping from game to game.

Start My Own
The final option is to start my own guild. Running a guild means I get to set the standards for the kind of community I want, I get to decide the rules (though “try to keep it PG-13 or less and, in general, just don’t be a jerk” about sums it up), and I get to set the tone for how serious we are about the game. It also means I have to deal with people when they want to cause drama. I’ve toyed with this idea for a few months now, but the problem is that, in that time, I haven’t really played just one MMO consistently; I’ve played a bunch of games a little bit. If I’m going to be a guild leader, I’m going to want to be in my guild’s game at least three or four nights of the week for a few hours, and I’m not sure I want to make that kind of commitment to any one game at this point. However, if I did, it would probably be Guild Wars 2, since that’s the game that I feel the most knowledgeable about (despite having never seen the inside of a raid, even in a video), and have the most leveled and geared characters. It’s also the game where I have the most friends playing at the moment (though most of them are even more casual players than I am, so they probably wouldn’t be the best foundation for a new community, but at least I would have a few members to pad numbers with).

Maybe it’s because I’m such an introvert, but I hate shopping for a good guild. If anyone has any recommendations for guilds active in the US Eastern time zone for Guild Wars 2, WildStar, or Rift, go ahead and leave a link in the comments. I won’t guarantee that I’ll join, but I’m willing to take a look. Or let me know if you’d be interested joining a potential Occasional Hero Guild Wars 2 guild (just kidding… mostly).

MMO Burnout

Lately I’ve felt a little bit burnt out on my current stable of MMOs. It’s not like I want to stop playing any of them, but often in recent days I find myself logging in to a game and getting bored a few minutes later and logging out. As you can probably tell from a cursory glance at my blog history, it’s not unusual for me to get burnt out on a particular game after a while, but what is unusual is that I’ve been burnt out on all of them at once. What’s even more interesting is that I’ve become burnt out on games for a wide variety reasons. Here are a few.

Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is the MMO that I’ve put the most hours into over the years, and my problem here is that I’m starting to feel like I’ve done it all. I have almost every class to 80; I probably could have every class to 80 if I blew all of my tomes of knowledge. Heart of Thorns was fun, but it’s really not designed to be played alone. I do play a good bit with other people, but sometimes schedule conflicts can be an issue. The first chapter of the living world was fun, but it held my attention for a couple nights at most, and we won’t get more until the 20th. There’s still plenty I could do–I have yet to finish the world map on any one character, and most of my characters are not very well geared–but the reason those things have gone undone thus far is because they don’t sound fun.

Long story short, Angmar happened. I really love my Lore-Master, and I really want to get to Moria, but once again I’m stuck in the mid 40s lacking motivation. I’ve considered just chain running skirmishes until I’m high enough level to move on to Moria, but that gets tedious. I could have a high level friend powerlevel me, but that feels like cheating. Maybe I should just break down and buy Forochel and bypass the rest of Angmar altogether?

I really want to get those Dark vs. Light event rewards, but I’ve done Coruscant and Dromund Kaas so many times that it makes them hard to get past. I’m told that chain running solo flashpoints is really good XP (indeed, I usually come out 1.5-2 levels higher than when I went in), but, well, see previous paragraph. At least they’ve upped the rate at which quests dispense XP, and, while I know it makes raiders grumpy, the GW2-style level and reward scaling is really nice.

I love WildStar, but I got back from vacation to find out that basically every person whose name I recognized in my guild has left. It wasn’t some big drama thing, so that’s good, it was simply due to the fact that we haven’t been able to get a raid team together for over six months despite having plenty of people level capped. Honestly, I guess I was part of the problem; I signed up, and stopped showing up after about a month of not being able to do anything because we were shorthanded. I’m still deciding if I want to stay and try to help rebuild the guild, or just find a new guild to play with. Either way, it’s kind of depressing and it saps my motivation to keep logging in.

For some reason, the fact that Rift is coming out with an expansion has renewed my interest in playing, despite my highest level character being a measly fifteen who probably won’t be ready for this expansion until the next one arrives. My problem with Rift has always been that I can’t seem to pick a character and stick with it. My favorite so far (the aforementioned level fifteen) is a weird combination of classes that I built, a bard/strategist. He uses flamethrowers for cone AoE damage and music for single-target fights. Both souls are support focused, so he has great survivability; I usually finish off most fights with little to no health gone. It’s probably awful in terms of DPS, but I finally came to the conclusion that, if I’m having fun with it, why do I care? My only dilemma now is that the expansion preorder comes with a free level boost to the current cap of 65. Should I get it? Should I use it on this character, or should I save it until I know a little more about the game? If I’m going to use it on this character, should I bother leveling him ahead of the expansion? A while back I got a level 60 character boost, and I was so overwhelmed with all of the new skills that were suddenly dumped in my lap that I barely played him. I’m not even sure where to go to level him to the current cap of 65. I wish it worked more like SWTOR’s insta-60 tokens, starting off in the latest story area with a mini-tutorial that introduces you skills in small groups.

Elder Scrolls Online
I have a similar problem with Elder Scrolls Online that I do with Rift. Characters are just too customizable, and it’s hard to know if I’m going to end up with a character that I like in the end. Even worse, respecting is fairly expensive. The fear of making a character I don’t like has paralyzed me into basically not playing any character high enough to know if I will like it or not. Also, One Tamriel seems like it’s going to fix a lot of my other frustrations with the game, so I think I’m just going to hold off until that hits before digging into the game seriously.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is whether or not I like this tendency in myself to jump around to all of these different games. Sometimes I’m a little jealous of people who play one MMO exclusively for years on end, learn everything there is to know about it, and become a staple of the community. I don’t know if I could ever pick just one game, though. There are too many interesting adventures to be had and stories to be experienced.

LotRO: Three Reasons Why I Hate Angmar

Areluin 43
Every MMO has that one zone where characters just absolutely stall. For me in Lord of the Rings Online, it’s Angmar. It’s funny, I just passed the exact spot where my Beorning is parked. In a way, it’s discouraging, because he’s still several levels higher than my Rune-Keeper, but in another, it’s a reminder that this new character could easily share his fate if I don’t push through. There are a lot of reasons to hate Angmar, but here are my top three.

The Lore Is Boring
I’m no Tolkien expert, but as far as I remember from the books, Angmar was basically just “that place where the Witch-King is from.” I’m not sure if all of these tribes of hillmen are a real thing in some obscure scrap of Tolkien lore, but if they are, The Professor didn’t feel the need to burden us with the details the way LotRO does. Don’t get me wrong, expansions upon existing lore are one of the reasons why I love well done licensed IP games like LotRO, but if I thought of Angmar at all, I’ve always pictured it as a mini Mordor, ruled by a Nazgul and crawling with orcs, not a land devoted to a couple of warring tribes that feel completely disconnected with the rest of Middle-Earth. I read most of the quest text in LotRO–a lot of it is really well written–but once I hit Angmar I skim at best.

The Quest Structure Is Awkward
My biggest complaint about LotRO is not the awkwardly lumpy player character heads (although, for goodness sake, could we get an update to those? NPCs look better than player characters in the newer expansions!), it’s that the quest tracker only holds five quests at a time. I’m sure there’s some legitimate technical reason that they haven’t fixed this, and I guess it’s better than nothing, but it’s really annoying in a zone like Angmar where most of the questgivers are packed into one corner of the map and not really arranged by area at all. What I end up doing is picking up everything I can while I’m in town, finishing the five quests that fit in my tracker, then taking them off and adding five new ones back on, and hoping I don’t end up doing too much backtracking because I didn’t know I had to pick some flowers in the middle of a field overrun with Duvardain half way across the zone that I just ran through to do the last quest I finished (no seriously, there’s literally a quest to pick flowers in the middle of this barren wasteland). Add to that the fact that 40 is when you really start to feel the level curve ramp up, and the whole zone really drags on.

The Setting Is Just Plain Oppressive
The zone is mostly desert with a little bit of swamp mixed in. Just look at the screenshot above; dead trees, scrub brush, and ruins. That pretty much sums up the scenery. And what’s up with the sky? It’s red all day long, with some kind of weird magical glow that I haven’t ever found an explanation for. Even the music is almost nonexistent here, replaced by some creepy ambient noises.

MMO Anime Recommendation: Log Horizon

Log HorizonI’ve never been into anime. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not my thing. I mean, I watched Pokémon back in the 90s just like everyone else, and I enjoy anime styled games like Megaman, but the shows have just never caught my interest. Bad translations bother me, bad dubs bother me more, and I’m not interested enough to pick through bad shows to find the good. Besides, most of my TV watching is done while I’m doing something boring on my other monitor. Fortunately, I have friends who watch anime (and play MMOs) who highly recommended Log Horizon to me. They described the plot as, “A bunch of people wake up inside an MMO one day and have to learn to live in the game.” My response was, “Is this another name for Sword Art Online?” I watched exactly one episode of Sword Art Online, and couldn’t stand any more. It seems pretty clear to me that the people who made Sword Art Online have never played an MMORPG, possibly never played an RPG. All I remember is the characters talking about needing to get through all 100 levels (not in the “enough XP to level up to 100” sense, but in the Mario “beat all the levels to win the game” sense) before everyone else did because all of the monsters would be killed and then they wouldn’t be able to get any XP to get strong enough to progress to kill the evil dude who trapped them all in the VR game in the first place. In other words, nothing respawns. What kind of crappy game designer thought that up? “Oh, you bought the game a week after it came out? Sorry, should have gotten it on launch day; the XP’s all gone. Better unsubscribe now.” Also, the whole “if you die in the game and you die in real life” thing is a bit hokey. Especially in a genre where you pretty much expect to die from time to time, especially if you’re the first ones to do a brand new raid.

Log Horizon, by contrast, actually feels like it was written by a veteran MMO gamer, but it makes no assumptions that the viewer is as well. The players suddenly wake up in their favorite MMO, Elder Tale(s), and the show spends the first half of the first season slowly introducing MMO mechanics, as well as how they are different in this new world, such as classes and how they interact (the three main characters are a tank, a DPS, and a support), PKing (the game is apparently all OWPvP), crafting (can you craft stuff you know about in the real world that wasn’t previously an item in the game?), RP (one of the main characters is very serious about being a ninja, and another is very serious about being a cat-person), death and respawning (XP penalties, ew), even what happens to players who play a character who doesn’t look like them (the main character has to ajdust to walking because his character is much taller than he is, and another character turns out to be a girl playing a male character). A large chunk of season two involves players learning a new raid. It introduces these concepts gradually enough that I think a person only marginally aware of MMOs could follow it, but it doesn’t feel like it’s talking down to MMO veterans. It has all the anime trappings, from unrequited love triangles to over-the-top action sequences. The plot as a whole is very well thought out; it’s clear that the author had a plan for the story from the beginning, and has stuck to it consistently across both seasons and (hopefully) beyond. Overall, it’s incredibly well done.

Both seasons are available to watch for free (with ads) on Hulu and Crunchyroll. I’ve been watching the subtitled version (it’s good for the most part, though a lot of spellings change between seasons), and I think a dubbed version is available, but, from what little I’ve seen of it, it’s not very well done, so stick with subbed unless that just really annoys you. My wife and I were hooked after just two episodes, and we binged the whole first season in about four days on our recent vacation, and now we’re almost done with the second season. If you’re an MMO player looking for something to watch, I highly recommend this show!

LotRO: Rune-Keeping

Areluin 29I’ve never been a big fan of elves in any universe, and it all goes back to Tolkien elves. After all, basically every modern fantasy story can trace its roots, directly or indirectly, back to Tolkien, especially anything to do with elves, which, prior to Tolkien, were depicted mostly as small, mischievous pixies rather than tall, beautiful (arrogant, know-it-all), and graceful humanoids with pointed ears. To be perfectly honest, though, I’ve always been a little torn about Tolkien elves. On the one hand, they have a cool culture, and Tolkien went to all the trouble of writing a whole history book and an entire language for them. On the other hand, mostly what we see of them in the Lord of the Rings is them saying “Oh, the greatest threat Middle-Earth has ever known is returning? Yeah we’ve known about that for ages. Well, we’re packing up our army of immortal supersoldiers and sailing west, see ya.” And let’s be honest, cramming a weird dwarf-elf love triangle into the Hobbit movies where it didn’t belong didn’t improve my love for elves either.

All that to say, of the multitude of characters I’ve made in Lord of the Rings Online, not many of them have been elves. I made Areluin (the Sindarin Elvish words for “royal” and “blue” run together) a while back because I needed another character for crafting, and I made him and elf because I hadn’t done the elf starting zone in a long time. I didn’t think I would ever end up playing him, but somehow I ended up doing a little questing with him one night when I was bored, and quickly fell in love with the class.

The Rune-Keeper is a really interesting, fairly unique class. They have an attunement bar that moves toward either DPS or Healing as you use spells of each type that increases the potency of those types of skills. I’m not sure why I haven’t played the rune-keeper sooner, since it’s practically nothing but HoTs and DoTs, and that’s been my favorite class archetype over the last few years. It just feels so “right.” I’m super squishy, with not much health, but I feel like I have a lot of power and survivability because I can DoT my target up and then hit a button to switch to healing, put a bunch of HoTs on myself and finish with a bubble that resets my attunement, then go back to damage before my DoTs expire. That requires constantly thinking a few steps ahead–you have to estimate when you’ll need to switch to self-healing, especially since some of my attunement resets and switchers have long cooldowns–but that makes it all the more interesting for me. I’d be lying if I said I died less than on my Beorning or Captain, but I don’t feel nearly as helpless as, say, my lore master. I’d love to try the healing game, but low-level dungeon runs are hard to come by in LotRO these days. Maybe I’ll ask around some time to see if any guilds do lowbie/alt dungeons on a regular basis. (Let me know if you know of any guilds on Gladden that do this!)

I feel a little bad starting yet another character on LotRO. This is the game where my altaholic tendencies were born, so I’ve done the Lone-Lands so many times that I could navigate it in my sleep, and the beauty of Lake Evendim now looks more like a painfully slow swim to the island of Tyl Ruinen (I just heard the zone referred to as “Everswim” in world chat). Also, as much as I’m loving the rune-keeper, I said basically the same things about the beorning just last Febuary. Will this character suffer the same burnout? Only time will tell, but it would be nice to get at least one of them into Moria. I’ve paid for several expansions that I’ve yet to see, and I’d like to remedy that situation.

Is It Possible To Balance Melee and Ranged Classes?

It’s a perennial problem for MMOs: either melee classes have the advantage or ranged ones do. In WildStar, the constant moving and dodging out of red means ranged classes have an advantage simply because they can keep attacking while they move. In older MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, where most of the ranged classes are rooted casters and most of the melee classes have a lot of instant casts, melee classes have the edge. From what I’ve heard about SWTOR, it seems that they’ve recently swung the pendulum; melee classes have always had more DPS/tanking potential, but many of the recent dungeon and raid bosses have included mechanics that require melee classes to move back to avoid massive damage, thus limiting their output. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that I do better with melee classes in games with action combat like Elder Scrolls Online because I’m more likely to miss with ranged attacks. Sure, this isn’t really a balance issue so much as a “stop failing” issue, and probably less of an issue in dungeons where, if it’s anything like every other MMO I’ve played, most bosses are the size of a small house, but still, this is a genre where people create massive spreadsheets of damage output to determine the META, and I’ve seen people literally complaining that one race or faction has an “advantage” over the others because their casting animation is a little more subtle.

The best solution I’ve seen to this problem is in Guild Wars 2’s, where most classes can be either melee or ranged depending on what weapon you’re holding. This allows the developers a lot of freedom when designing fights because everyone should be able to step back and hit things from range at least sometimes. Unfortunately, it also means that you really have to have at least one ranged weapon set to be viable most of the time, which is annoying because there are many classes that have two melee sets that I like (for instance, Revenant’s Mace/Axe and Sword/Shield). Couldn’t I have a whole bunch of weapon sets like Guild Wars 1?

So what do you think? Is it possible to truly balance these two class styles? Have you played any MMOs with any clever ways of bringing these two class types into balance?

GW2: My Endgame Is Indistinguishable From Leveling (and That’s Not Bad)

Incendiary Lemons level up
I bounce around between a lot of MMOs, and the one that I’ve spent the most time on in recent years is Guild Wars 2. I’ve been playing for more than three and a half years, and I have more level capped characters in it than any other MMO. Ironically, however, I’ve done very little of the traditional endgame content. Most of my 80s are lucky to have a full set of exotic gear, and not one of them has a single piece of ascended. I’ve done at most half of the explorable dungeon paths, and I’ve certainly never seen the inside of a raid. I haven’t even done anything with my guild in ages (they’re great people, and they do a lot of activities, I just don’t spend a lot of time with them). So as I pulled my elementalist, my second lowest level character who I haven’t played in probably a year or more, out of retirement, I began to ask myself why. The answer that came to me is that Guild Wars 2 has made leveling so fun that I don’t feel like I need anything else to do. Sure, the occasional dungeon run with friends is fun, but open world content is much more enjoyable for me.

Guild Wars 2 has a probably my favorite leveling experience of any MMO I’ve ever played. It suffers from neither the kill grind nor the quest fatigue that most MMOs have because the game is primarily about mapping, so you’re never doing the same thing twice in each zone. Also, because of Guild Wars 2’s level scaling, you have a lot of freedom even at a low level. I recently discovered that there was a whole zone that I had never been to. In WildStar or SWTOR I may find the occasional quest that I’ve never done tucked away in some obscure corner of the map that, but never a whole zone.

So, when I hit 80 on a character, I just go right on mapping. Sure, I may move to higher level zones, or start doing the Living World or Heart of Thorns stories, but to someone who doesn’t know Guild Wars 2, my gameplay at 80 wouldn’t look any different than the gameplay at 20. And this is precisely why Guild Wars 2 didn’t need to bump up its level cap when the expansion came out. At first I was afraid this mastery thing was going to be a gimmick, but now that I’ve actually played it, I get it. They didn’t want just another ten levels for their players to grind out and not feel any different than when they started (especially given that they stop handing out new skills for leveling so early on), they wanted to do something unique to the setting of the new expansion, because the game is as much about exploring as killing monsters.

Because I’m an altaholic, I don’t have 100% map completion on any of my characters, but if my characters could all gather together in a room and compare notes, I’m sure they’d have at least two full maps of the world between them. I feel like some day I should do it all on one character (probably my necromancer, since he’s my best geared character with most of the world already unlocked), but I really don’t feel bad about it. I’ll get around to it eventually.